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Thu Dec 28, 2017, 07:53 PM

Gold Water Gate Rules

“Goldwater is a nervous man. An impulsive man. A childish man. ...You want the real question answered, don't you? Goldwater has had two serious nervous breakdowns. Had to be taken off, taken out of the country, hospitalized. His wife wrote about it in full in 'Good Housekeeping”...”
President Lyndon Johnson; Oval Office conversation with C. Richard West, editor of the Dallas Morning News; September 21, 1964.

The above quote can be found in Michael Beschloss's “Reaching for Glory” (Simon & Schuster; 2001; page 39). LBJ is referencing an article by Mrs. Goldwater, published in the May edition of “Good Housekeeping,” in which she described the toll her husband's hard work had taken on him. The public discussion that followed resulted in what is commonly known as the “Goldwater rule” – that mental health professionals should avoid trying to diagnose a public official (or candidate) whom they do not have first-hand clinical exposure to.

What is too often overlooked is that a attempting a specific diagnosis is distinct from commenting upon the dangers that an individual poses, if that person has the powers of a given office. More, the amount of information available in 1964 – the combination of Senator Goldwater's position on using nuclear weapons in Vietnam, and his wife's comments in a magazine for housewives – is relatively small when compared to the sum-total of information that the public has regarding Donald Trump and the threat he poses to our nation.

It is important, at least in my opinion, that we consider the history of mental instability and especially the dangers it has posed in the context of presidents in the post-World War Two world. This does not translate into an attack upon those who deal with mental illness, which is a legitimate human experience. Rather, it should focus upon the dangers posed when certain people have inhabited the most powerful position in the world.

One need look no further than LBJ for evidence of the toll that the modern presidency can take upon even a relatively stable man. Johnson was a legendary operative during his years in both the House and Senate, and on the surface would appear to have been capable of being a stable chief executive. He was confident in his ability to accomplish whatever he put his mind to in the Congress, and although he initially was uncomfortable with the manner he became president, the 1964 election put him firmly in the driver's seat.

If one focuses on his domestic agenda, LBJ was effective, nearing greatness. However, early in his presidency, he believed the United States could dictate its will in Vietnam. By the time he recognized that he could not – and that the war was destroying his planned “Great Society,” including having Martin Luther King openly oppose him – he began to have a series of psychotic breaks that his closest aides both feared and kept secret.

For a sympathetic view of this phase of his presidency, see Doris Kearns Goodwin's 1976 “Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.” For another view, see Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s 1978 “Robert Kennedy and His Times.” Both provide fascinating, and disturbing, evidence worthy of our consideration.

The downfall of Johnson led to the 1968 election of Richard Nixon. But, before we focus upon Nixon, let's take a brief look at his opponent in his 1972 re-election campaign. Democratic Senator George McGovern was, in my opinion, an honorable man. He had served the nation in WW2. And he was opposed to US military involvement in Vietnam.

The 1972 Democratic Party's primary was damaged by the series of crimes known collectively as Watergate. But the public was largely ignorant of the full scope of this at the time. The Nixon people had worked to destroy party unity among Democrats by the time of the convention. Thus, neither of the two powerful factions within the party were supportive of McGovern to begin with. More, numerous errors on the part of McGovern and his campaign helped.

The most remembered mistake involved his first announced choice for his vice presidential candidate, Thomas Eagleton. (He was far from McGovern's first choice; when others turned down the offer to run , Eagleton became the default option.) Neither McGovern nor his staff were really familiar with Senator Eagleton. They relied upon him to be fully honest when they vetted him. He was not. Shortly after he was announced as the VP candidate, it was reported that he had an extensive history of psychiatric hospitalization and treatment including electro-shock therapy. For more on this, see Bruce Miroff's 2007 “The Liberal's Moment.”

Nixon's victory had consequences that Tricky Dick never anticipated. Watergate would overwhelm his second term. Now, Richard Nixon had functioned well in the House and Senate. His time as vice president had exposed some curious personality quirks, for sure, but without Watergate, he would have been an effective republican president. But Watergate came to define him.

Even more so than LBJ, Nixon became isolated in the bubble of the White House. And unlike LBJ, he even became isolated from most of his staff within that bubble. This increased his already substantial tendency towards paranoid thinking. He saw enemies everywhere. In time, he began to increase his consumption of whiskey while sitting up, alone, late at night, stewing. His staff, like LBJ's, came to realize that his mental instability put the nation at risk; they took steps to insure that he could not initiate a nuclear strike on his own, as is detailed in numerous quality books on his presidency.

From Ford to Obama, our nation has had presidents who have been mentally stable. Three were arguably incompetent in terms of ability (Ford, Reagan, and Bush Jr.), and Reagan's mental abilities took a sharp decline in his second term. Yet, the sum-total of their risk factors could not compare to that of the current president on any given day.

Bandy Lee's 2017 book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” (St. Martin's Press), is therefore required reading for all citizens concerned with the severe risks he poses to our nation. And once read, it requires us to take steps to insure that Congress removes him from office.

H2O Man

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Arrow 16 replies Author Time Post
Reply Gold Water Gate Rules (Original post)
H2O Man Dec 2017 OP
ms liberty Dec 2017 #1
H2O Man Dec 2017 #3
Me. Dec 2017 #2
H2O Man Dec 2017 #4
Me. Dec 2017 #5
H2O Man Dec 2017 #9
panader0 Dec 2017 #6
H2O Man Dec 2017 #7
grantcart Dec 2017 #8
H2O Man Dec 2017 #10
H2O Man Dec 2017 #11
FSogol Dec 2017 #12
ProfessorGAC Dec 2017 #13
H2O Man Dec 2017 #14
ProfessorGAC Dec 2017 #15
H2O Man Dec 2017 #16

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Dec 28, 2017, 08:08 PM

1. K&R I'll look for this book. n/t

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Response to ms liberty (Reply #1)

Thu Dec 28, 2017, 10:09 PM

3. It's a great book.

I'm sure that you'll love it!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Dec 28, 2017, 08:49 PM

2. It Seems To Keep Happening Over & Over

The deception. You might be guessing there was something wrong with Reagan but they kept him in office when he should've been removed. Nancy, of course, keeper of the almighty flame but who else just so the Cons could continue holding the reins of power. Here we are, with another mental incompetent who they will try to keep so they can have 'power'.

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Response to Me. (Reply #2)

Thu Dec 28, 2017, 10:12 PM

4. The Gipper

should definitely have been impeached on Iran-contra. The Democrats erred in not pursuing that. What's a giggle is that the current rabid right-wing republicans pretend they "love" Reagan, but are opposed to even his positions as being soft.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #4)

Thu Dec 28, 2017, 10:26 PM

5. Seriously

The Dems can't let this one slip by the way they did with St. Ronnie...did you see where the Dumpster just said he can do what he wants with the justice dept.?

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Response to Me. (Reply #5)

Thu Dec 28, 2017, 10:51 PM

9. When he became

feeble, those around him should have had him step down. But they opted to try to capitalize on the opportunity to push their agenda instead. As you noted, this dynamic remains the same today.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Dec 28, 2017, 10:33 PM

6. I voted for McGovern (great name for a POTUS no?)

I was young and green but remember thinking at the time that
the Eagleton revelations would be the end.

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Response to panader0 (Reply #6)

Thu Dec 28, 2017, 10:48 PM

7. I have long

had great respect for McGovern. He ranks high among the Senators of my lifetime, and I think that he would have been a good president. With hindsight, I would hope that even those democrats who didn't vote for him would recognize that he was better than Nixon.

I did have the opportunity to meet Muskie, who I also had/have a high opinion of.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Dec 28, 2017, 10:49 PM

8. I agree with most of your valuable insights but let me delineate a couple of minor disgressions

1) The main damage to the Democratic primaries was self inflicted. Wanting to make great improvements to our Union we let our ambition escalate to grandiose proportions. Not satisfied with managing a competent end to our role in Vietnam we embrace the one who will end it tomorrow before noon, regardless to the cost of our allies. Wanting to create a fairer America we want to redistribute wealth on a massive scale. This was the problem with McGovern it is the disaster of a Sanders nomination.

I was an 18 year old, the only Democrat in a Goldwater house. When McGovern was nominated I went to my next door neighbor, who was a couple of years older and from one of the staunchest Democratic families in the city with great joy expressing how we were certain to win and he looked at me glumly and said "we are going for a historic loss, probably 50-0". "How can that be?", "McGovern is proposing a massive income redistribution plan that will set taxes at 77%, even my dad won't vote for him".


he cumulative lifetime tax on recipients should take the following form: A base amount would be exempt from taxation—this amount is now set by the government at $60,000. Then a progressive tax would be levied, reaching an upper limit of 77 percent—the current statutory ceiling—on an estate of $500,000 or more. The base exemption should be increased when the estate includes a wholly owned proprietorship.

2) Most of the "Watergate activities" while illegal and disturbing didn't have much impact, especially after the Eagleton affair which proved that McGovern was an inept. The likely target of the Watergate break had little to do with McGovern campaign, which is where all the strategic information on the Presidential campaign was. It almost certainly was to try and find out how much Larry O'Brien knew about Howard Hughes payments to Nixon.

After Atomic testing was done in Nevada Hughes was angry because he had invested $ 500,000 (before he was President in secret payments) to Nixon with an understanding that there would be no testing in Nevada. When Nixon went ahead of it anyway Hughes went nuts and after Bobby was assassinated dreamt of buying the RFK campaign en masse and running his own candidate. He paid O'Brien a retainer and then nothing ever happened, O'Brien went to the largely ceremonial post of head of the DNC. Nixon, almost certainly, wanted to find out what O'Brien knew about payments to Nixon.

The Watergate break in was basically a defensive move that, obviously, backfired.

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Response to grantcart (Reply #8)

Thu Dec 28, 2017, 11:01 PM

10. Very good.

Let me respond to your second point first.

A reading of the Senate Committee Report on Watergate, we find that the vast majority of the unethical, often illegal activities took place during -- and focused almost entirely -- upon disrupting the Democratic primaries. (It is an error to identify "Watergate" in a manner limited to the headquarters and psychiatrist's offices. Or to the "plumbers." It was far, far larger than that.)

The identified goal was to damage both Muskie and Humphrey, leaving McGovern as the candidate for the fall. You are correct in that McGovern was wrong to pretend the war could possibly be ended in a day. Even though many wanted to hear that, it was no more accurate than Nixon's 1968 "secret plan" to end the war.

In fact, McGovern was fully aware of the plan that LBJ had in the summer of 1968, after he opted out of the primary contests. And that plan is almost exact to the agreement Nixon (Ford) finally used.

It was those too often forgotten parts of Watergate that led to the increasingly risky "plumber" activities. Those break-ins were the flowering of a deeply rooted plant.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #10)

Fri Dec 29, 2017, 12:25 PM

11. Part Two:

Why Nixon was obsessed with certain break-ins was something of a mystery that resulted in speculation similar to that of guessing who the real Deep Throat was for decades. He had even proposed bombing the Brookings Institute, which seemed rather extreme. Intelligent students of Nixon tried to tie the Watergate and Ellsberg's psychiatrist's break-ins with Brookings and the break-in at the Chilean embassy with little success for years. As it turned out, the psychiatrist's office was not directly related to the others.

In 2012, Lamar Waldron provided the answers in his extremely well-documented "Watergate: The Hidden History (Nixon, the Mafia, and the CIA)." Castro had released a report on the CIA's attempts to kill him, which documented that VP Nixon had been the moving force in getting the CIA to enlist the help of the mob to kill Castro. One copy of the report was believed to be in the Chilean embassy. Another was believed to be at the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate (this was Ted Kennedy's copy). A third at Brookings.

Yet another extremely important book is David Brinkley & Luke Nichter's "The Nixon Tapes: 1973." This is the second of two books of transcribed Nixon tapes. It was published in 2015. It documents that Nixon's primary concern in initially covering up Watergate was his fear that the Huston Plan would be exposed. This continued to be his greatest fear. Like many at the time, I was outraged when Ford pardoned Nixon. However, looking back, I recognize that Nixon could have won any of the obvious cases against him .....unless he was charged with approving the Huston Plan. And that brings us full-circle, as this plan, in large part, resulted in CREEP's unethical and illegal activities in the 1972 Democratic primary season, etc.

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Response to grantcart (Reply #8)

Fri Dec 29, 2017, 12:33 PM

12. When reading the OP, my 1st thought was: The main damage to the Democratic primaries was self

inflicted. Very true and exactly like the Sanders' personality cult.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri Dec 29, 2017, 12:41 PM

13. Great Thread, Sir

Especially given the dialogue between you and Grant.


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Response to ProfessorGAC (Reply #13)

Fri Dec 29, 2017, 01:14 PM

14. Thanks!

Grant is one of my best friends on DU, and I always enjoy our discussions here.

Too many people, as a second person's response to his post shows, have either forgotten, or never grasped, what the Ervin Committee Report documented. It's important for us to study the Senate Watergate Report (Ervin Committee), which documents without any question the CREEP tactics that targeted the Democratic primaries, and created serious hostilities between the campaigns of Muskie, Humphrey, and McGovern. Those hostilities didn't magically stop at the convention. Indeed, they carried on through for more than a decade. Thus, those who continue to embrace the bitterness of the 2016 Democratic primaries are either unwittingly or half-wittingly investing in the same type of foolishness as damaged the party in the past.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #14)

Fri Dec 29, 2017, 01:39 PM

15. That Makes Sense

Given the stakes, i recall a lot of tension among those running for the nomination, even before the presumptive nominee was killed in '68

I was still in 6th grade then, so i didn't have my political big boy pants yet, but was at least paying attention to the nightly news.

By '72, the infighting was palpable and i clearly remember the "scandal" when the Eagleton stuff was released. Weird part was, i remember a lot of the sentiment being, "well this might not matter unless the president dies or something". Nobody thought much of the importance of the VP. (After all, if Agnew could do it. . .)

But, i think it was pretty clear, even in reading All The President's Men, that this was WAY deeper than a break in of one office.

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Response to ProfessorGAC (Reply #15)

Fri Dec 29, 2017, 05:08 PM

16. 1968

was a unique year in our nation's history. A lot of good, and a lot more bad. By late '67, within the party, those in DC knew that LBJ was becoming increasingly unstable. Several insiders who knew his character believed that he would not run again. When some activists tried to convince RFK, and then McGovern, to challenge him in the primaries, neither would do so. McCarthy, of course, was willing to, and announced his candidacy at the end of the year.

Nixon would win the republican nod, but it wasn't clear in early 1968 that he would. They had a fairly strong group of candidates. One can only speculate if LBJ had run, if he would have won that year. Events at the convention suggest not. I've always found it odd that among the older RFK supporters, after his death, relatively few supported Humphrey. Had HHH distanced himself from LBJ on the war publicly even a week earlier than he did, the late polls indicate he'd have won. But too many older RFK supporters voted for Wallace as a protest. I suspect they had liked RFK's law-and-order phase that lasted through his serving as Attorney General, but that is just speculation on my part.

By '72, the Kennedy Democrats no longer enjoyed the #1 position in party politics. Teddy was damaged goods. As we know from his autobiography, Humphrey -- a truly decent man - could never get over his bitterness towards JFK and RFK. I think Muskie was the strongest of our candidates over all. But the "rat-fuckers" had agents in the Muskie, Humphrey, and McGovern campaigns. They had access to campaign plans, letterhead, and unlimited money. And they were "good" (capable) at doing what they did to create great tensions and hostilities between the three camps.

In my opinion, other than Carter's win in 1976 despite the lack of real party unity, it wasn't until 1992 that Bill Clinton was really able to put things together. He did again in '96, and it wasn't until Obama's powerful coalition that our party accessed its real potential for power at the national level.

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